Boracay holiday vacations bring domestic tourists

Tourists walk on Boracay's White Beach with masks pulled down under their chins.

Philippine families are on Boracay holiday vacations, and the visitors and locals are happy. The visitors: happy to travel to the country’s most famous beach destination. The locals: happy to have some income.

A friend of mine watches the tourism numbers. By his estimate, using official government stats, there are about one-sixth the number of tourists on Boracay Island at the moment, compared to pre-pandemic holidays.

One sixth is better than no sixth.

Boracay holiday vacations

As domestic tourists flock to Boracay for holiday vacations, the biggest change is the number of people all over the place.

For nearly two years, White Beach on the island was deserted. And while that meant lovely times of solitude and beach serenity for me, it was hard times for locals. Real hard: like, starvation and suicide hard, as I’ve written about previously.

So I am thrilled to see people on the beach, because it means the locals can earn money and have some hope.

Most holiday vacationers are from Manila. I do not know if families rerouted their vacation plans to Boracay from Siargo – another beach destination that was decimated by Typhoon Odette. But I wouldn’t be surprised.

Foreign tourists are not allowed into the country yet. That plan was pushed back because of the Omicron variant.

A large portion of pre-pandemic foreign visitors were from China and South Korea. I think it’s unlikely China will promote outbound tourism until after the Olympics — if even at all in 2022.

Honestly, I told my friend who’s watching visitor stats that more people on the island than there are right now would feel… unhealthy. Too crowded.

Before the pandemic, the number of tourists had to be limited. The number of Boracay vacationers was unsustainable. Before the pandemic, in 2018, President Rodrigo Duterte shut down the island to give it a break. Smart man.

But in order to support Boracay families, more tourists will be needed year-round. Not just domestic visitors here for holiday vacations. So the country will have to re-open, eventually.

Garbage cans

A noticeable change on the island: garbage cans on the beach!

Garbage cans on White Beach, Boracay Island, during the holiday vacation season in 2021.

Might sound silly – but back when there were no tourists and the island felt deserted, the spouse and I had to pack out our trash because there were no receptacles.

As we all know, people make trash. Especially vacationers. It’s why we started making the Christmas trash tree decades ago. (We didn’t make one this year, but see 2019 (Cebu, Philippines) and 2015 (Tulum, Mexico).

More businesses, more entrepreneurs

Along with more people, there are more businesses open, and more entrepreneurs out to make a few pesos.

Stores and shops that were closed now are open and fully stocked. Bars and restaurants have top shelf liquor and real roses on neatly kept dining areas.

There were some businesses that stayed open throughout most of the time since the Philippines formally shut down in March 2020. And, sadly, there are some businesses that closed down and will never reopen.

Women make money braiding hair and giving massages on the beach and in abandoned storefronts.

Outside traditional storefronts, guys sell island-hopping tours, paddle board rentals, snorkel excursions, and sunset cruises.

Longer wait times for e-trikes

For the last month, my wait times for e-trikes has gotten longer, from a minute or two to five whole minutes just yesterday. The e-trikes that pass by are full of passengers.

I used to avoid the main road as much as possible because trike drivers would sort of hound me to take a ride.

When domestic tourists started showing up in greater numbers, I wrote about how the hustle was high among drivers to overcharge me. I am happy to report that in recent visits among Boracay holiday vacationers, I have not had that problem.

More smiles

A great change to see: people smile. They actually smile!

But not-so-great: I can see those smiles because people aren’t wearing masks, like in the picture at the top of this post.

Time will tell if Omicron turns those smiles into frowns.

As for me, I still prefer the scene away from the crowds. Luckily, I’ve been here so long I know the best spots to avoid most people on Boracay holiday vacations.

Diniwid Beach on Boracay Island in the Philippines does not attract as many holiday vacationers as the famous White Beach.

Thanks for reading, “Boracay holiday vacations bring domestic tourists.”

Earth Vagabonds have been on a travel pause since March 16, 2020, the day things shut down in this part of the world. In that time, they’ve worked on several self-sustainability projects with the indigenous Ati tribe, helped local friends through the pandemic storm, enjoyed empty Boracay beaches. Also, Ellen wrote a book and is working on a second one.

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